Break even is commonly used in economics to refer to the point where cost and revenue are equal. However, instead of using the long way of saying that

Firm X had reached the point of break even

is it possible to say

Firm X had broken even?

I realise that broke even is in common usage today, but somehow broken even just doesn't sound right. Is it correct or is there a better way of saying it?


It is, but you don't need the hyphen.


I think you could simply say "Firm X broke even." It would mean the same thing.

  • +1. I would definitely say something like "I broke even last year," or "the goal is to at least break even."
    – Andrew
    Apr 8 '12 at 21:03
  • 2
    -1: Past perfect doesn't really "mean the same thing" as simple past tense. Apr 8 '12 at 21:16
  • @FumbleFingers: Can you please explain how in this instance they mean something different?
    – JLG
    Apr 8 '12 at 23:54
  • There's nothing special about the compound verb to break even making it unsuitable for past perfect. "Firm X had broken even for three years before it reported a small profit last year", for example. Apr 9 '12 at 2:17
  • Thank you. I didn't say that I think the past perfect is unsuitable, I just think the simple past is more concise in this instance. For the OP's shorter sentence with no timeframe given, do you think that "Firm X had broken even." differs in meaning from the sentence "Firm X broke even."? (I sincerely want to know this. And I also sincerely appreciate you explaining your vote.)
    – JLG
    Apr 9 '12 at 3:09

Simple past: I broke even last year. No connection to present. Present perfect: I have broken even. Past but still has connection to present Past perfect: I had broken even until the crash in ... Completed before a time in the past.

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